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Murray McKintosh News Article

Is Britain’s Engineering Industry in Trouble?

Written by:

Jessica Kavanagh

Britain has been in the midst of an Engineering problem as the industry tries to bridge the widening skills gap. The main concern is that as more projects create vast vacancies, there won’t be enough talented professionals to fill them.

The 2016 Hays Global Skills Index discovered that the skills gap has once again worsened for the fifth year in a row. Over this period the skills gap has deteriorated by a total of 8% as employers continue to find that some UK university degrees provide neither the vocational or technical knowledge required.

Skilled engineers and technicians are needed worldwide and are widely considered as the most in-demand trades workers. Huge engineering projects across the country including HS2, Crossrail and various motorway improvements are creating new jobs over the next few years that need new skilled engineers to fill.

James Dyson, the inventor of Dyson hoovers, has announced that he will be opening a new university to try and alleviate the lack of young people training to become engineers. The Dyson Institute of Technology will be located at the Dyson Campus in Malmesbury. Its main aim is to give students the facilities to gain the skills and industry experience necessary to enter the sector, as Dyson look to double their workforce by 2020.

Students will not have to pay fees and by working alongside Dyson engineers four days a week and attending one day of classes will earn a salary of up to £16,000. This new university is part of an initiative by Dyson to bridge the skills gap currently looming over the industry.

This doesn’t mark the first time a new educational facility has been set up to train students to close the gap. In January, plans for a new college were unveiled that would focus on the training and development of the next generation of Engineers for the HS2 project.

While there is plenty being done to ensure the next generations can gain the essential skills and experience to pursue a career in Engineering, the current gap in skills is still a threat. Currently the UK has been able to supplement the much needed talent with skilled professionals from the EU.

However, with the triggering of Article 50 on the horizon, there is a worry that limiting the freedom of movement will harm the Engineering industry. This is raising concerns over Britain’s ability to train more skilled professionals in time.

Another pressing issue facing the Engineering industry is the underrepresentation of women in STEM subjects and throughout the sector. Currently only 8% of UK Engineers are female and as the broadening skills gap slowly starts to resemble a chasm, one of the solutions could lie with encouraging future generations of female students towards STEM subjects.

The Engineering 2015 UK report found that girls attending a single-sex, independent school are four times more likely to study A-level physics than those in mixed state schools. This shows that STEM qualifications are popular with female students, but perhaps the stigma of a male orientated industry deters them from pursuing a career.

Visibility is one of the key areas which could encourage more female students to explore career paths in STEM subjects. Writing for The Guardian, Zoë Apostolides comments on visibility:

“Visibility is hugely important – you can’t be what you can’t see – and this is improving”

Apostolides expresses a need for more role models throughout the industry and in popular culture. The stigma of the Engineering industry being a boys’ club and a masculine job does still exist and it’s this stereotype that will need to be fixed if the sector hopes to overcome both the skills gap and misrepresentation facing it.

The Engineering sector is currently facing a ‘leaky pipeline’ scenario, in which it risks losing skilled female engineers and future talent due to the industry currently being heavily male-dominated.

With a skills gap that continues to widen each year, the industry needs to exploit the talent currently available globally while they try to rebrand the occupation to appeal to more millennials and future generations.

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© 2016 Murray McIntosh.

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